OXFORD, Ala. (vstateblazers.com) — The No. 8 Valdosta State softball team defeated Montevallo, 3-1 and fell to No. 4 Auburn Montgomery 5-2, Friday afternoon in the Gulf South Conference Championship at Choccolocco Park. The Blazers finished the GSC Championship and now will await an at-large berth to the NCAA South Regional as the NCAA Division II Softball Championship field is scheduled to be unveiled May 16 at 10 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
VSU responded with a 3-1 win over Montevallo following the disappointing 2-1 loss to Mississippi College last night. Against the Falcons, the Blazers avenged an early season loss as VSU hit Mychael McMillan Saturday after she tossed a three-hit, complete game shutout in the finale of the series the first Sunday in March in Montevallo. It was the second loss of the season for the Blazers at that point.
The Blazers (34-7) touched her up for five hits, three earned runs, she walked one and fanned three. Blazer sophomore hurler Samantha Richards improved to 23-5 with a complete game, allowing four hits, on earned run, walked none and fanned five. VSU tallied three runs on five hits with two errors, while Montevallo (18-26) had one run on four hits.
The Falcons drew first blood with a solo home run from Hannah Carey in the top of the second inning, but the lead would be short lived, however, as VSU freshman Taylor Macera answered in the bottom of the inning with her second round-tripper of the season and a 1-1 score. Macera's first home run came at Christian Brothers on April 24.
VSU then continued the momentum in the fourth inning as junior Nicole Pennington drew a leadoff walk and senior Logan Hill reached on a fielder's choice. Following the second out, senior Kiley Robb blasted a two run shot to left center on a 3-1 count for a 3-1 lead. It was Robb's 16th home run of the season, tying her for second on the team with freshman Morgan Hill. It also gave VSU 94 home runs for the season to that point.
The Falcons had a chance in the fifth with a miscue by the Blazers, but the defense stood tall as a fielder's choice for the second out and a foul out to third for the final out. Richards retired the Falcons in order in the sixth, but Mariel Bertossi began the seventh with a double to right center. Holly Henderson hit a comebacker to Richards who wisely took the fielder's choice out at third, getting Bertossi for the first out of the inning. Another fielder's choice followed and Richards ended with a strikeout for the victory.
Macera finished the game 2 for 2 with a run scored and one RBI on the home run. Robb was 1 for 3 with a run scored and two RBI and the game winning home run in the fourth. Brooke Ingram went 2 for 3 for the Falcons and Carey was 1 for 3 with a run scored, home run and one RBI.
With the victory, VSU kept its GSC Championship title dreams alive and had to face top-seeded Auburn Montgomery as the Warhawks moved to No. 4 in the latest NFCA Top 25 this week. It was an elimination game for the Blazers, while AUM was 2-0 to that point.
VSU took the early lead in a matchup of top ten teams with a solo home run from Pennington in the third inning. It was just the fifth home run AUM hurler Bailey Barnes had surrendered all season. M. Hill pitched the first three innings for the Blazers as she ran into a lot of traffic on the bases, but got out of a first inning jam as AUM left the bags full behind some great defensive play from VSU. In the second, the Warhawks stranded runners at second and third.
The home run by Pennington was her national-leading 23rd of the season and second in the conference tournament. It moved her into a tie for fifth all-time in GSC history in home runs in a season by a player and it also was the 95th of the season by the Blazers as a team, moving the 2021 edition into third all-time behind the league and VSU-record of 98 set in 2007 by Arkansas-Monticello (66 games) and by the Blazers in 2009 (65 games).
VSU hit into an inning-ending double play in the fourth as the frame started promising with an infield single from freshman Aniston Gano. In the bottom of the inning, Gia Martin began the frame with a single to left field and Abby Krueger doubled to left for runners at second and third with nobody out. A wild pitch plated Martin for a 1-1 score and a sacrifice bunt RBI put AUM up 2-1. Following a pitching change by the Blazers in favor of senior Avery Lamb, a throwing error proved costly as Olivia Aycock singled off Lamb's glove for a RBI and Molly Cobb ground out to Lamb for the fourth run of the inning.
The Blazers pulled within 4-2 in the top of the fifth as sophomore Hunter Meadows drew a walk with one way and Pennington singled her home later in the inning. Morgan Duschell recorded her second RBI of the game in the bottom of the fifth for a 5-2 lead as she was a defensive replacement for starter Parker Pinholster early in the game. The Blazers went down in order in both the sixth and seventh innings
M. Hill (7-3) pitched three innings, allowing six hits, two earned runs, walked one and fanned three, while Lamb also went three innings, allowing five hits, three runs – one earned, walked one and fanned two. Pennington was 2 for 3 with a run scored and two RBI, including the home run. Barnes (14-2) went seven innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs, walked two and fanned three. Duschell was 1 for 2 with a run scored and two RBI for the Warhawks.